Artful Traveler

My Studio's in a Toilet Factory? 7 Surprising Artists Residency Programs in Unlikely Places


My Studio's in a Toilet Factory? 7 Surprising Artists Residency Programs in Unlikely Places
A less than accurate depiction of the CERN artist residency program.

When envisioning the typical artists residency program, one usually conjures up picturesque lodging in some remote location, away from the bustle of a metropolitan hub of galleries; a place of quiet reprieve offering solitude, fresh air, and wide open spaces for the tangled web of a creative mind to finally parse its threads. But did you know you can also be an artist-in-residence at a European Investment Bank? Or at LaGuardia Airport? Even the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has an artist milling around somewhere in its facilities, pondering the vast poetics that come with smashing subatomic particles together at impossibly high speeds.

Though we frequently insist on segregating our worlds by the bicameral hemispheres of the left and the right brain, these days, many non-creative institutions are finding that they can use a bit of right-brained thinking and artistic perspective to address problem solving, education, community outreach, and much more. Here are some surprising places that, believe it or not, really do welcome an artist or two working in their midsts.


LaGuardia Airport

laguardiaArtPort artists. Image courtesy of PANYNJ.

: QCA ArtPort in Queens, New York

Artists-in-Residence Alumni: Gideon Jacobs & Lexie Smith, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve, Sherwin Banfield, Brian Soliwoda 

Earlier this year, the Queens Council on the Arts announced a new residency program in collaboration with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, making this one of the very few times this New Yorker will have anything nice to say about the beleaguered transit institution. Open to all artists based out of Queens, New York, the residency program takes place at none other than the rotunda of Terminal A at LaGuardia Airport. During their 3-month residency, the artist will set up a public studio in a dedicated 110-square foot space where they will produce work that is “inspired by and provides a gateway into the dynamic cultural life of Queens.”

A NASA Research Lab

setiThe wind tunnel at SETI. Image courtesy of SETI AIR.

: the SETI Institute in Mountainview, California

Artists-in-Residence Alumni: Jen Bervin, Rachel Sussman, George Bolster, Martin Wilner, Danny Bazo, Karl Yerkes, Marko Paljhan

As one of the leading research contractors for NASA and the National Science Foundation, the SETI Institute basically exists to answer simple questions like “What is life?” and “How did it begin?” and whether or not we are, in the vast and expansive universe, alone. It’s a place whose trustees have included Carl Sagan, and Nobel Prize winners Baruch Blumburg and Charles Townes. It employs some of the top minds in all reaches of scientific inquiry, not only to search the skies for signs of company and explore far-flung planets, but also to address more terrestrial concerns like climate change. Its artist in residence program began in 2010 when artist Charles Lindsay paired with SETI scientist and information theorist Dr. Laurance Doyle in order to create Code Humpback, an installation that mixed midi and morse coded language with field recordings, video, light and sculpture to illustrate the complex communication systems demonstrated by humpback whales.

A Toilet Factory

arts/industryArts/Industry resident Tom Shields (2016). Image courtesy of Kohler.

: The Arts/Industry Program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Artists-in-Residence: Martha Clippinger, Shinji Turner-Yamamoto, Risa Puno, Soo Shin, Ghada Amer, Elinor Portnoy, Dave Cole

You probably recognize the name Kohler from your toilet, sink, or any other household plumbing appliance. Founded in 1873, Kohler is not only the nation’s leading manufacturer of plumbing and specialty products, they also produce generators and four-cycle engines, run a line of hotels and golf courses, and host an artists residency program that takes advantage of Kohler’s industrial manufacturing capabilities, which they've been offering up to studio artists since 1974. Participating artists have access to Kohler’s state-of-the-art pottery studio and foundry, as well as access to free industrial materials and technical support. In the words of 2016 resident Dave Cole, “I can do here in an afternoon what would take me a week in the studio, if I could even do it.”

An Investment Bank 

The European Investment Bank’s Artist Development Program in Luxembourg

Artists-in-Residence Alumni:
Francisco Gallardo, Grzegorz Stefański, Antonis Theodoridis, Nicola Rossini, Zuza Golinska, Annagel Duggleby, Katja Larsson

While it’s hard to imagine an American bank putting up a group of young, recently graduated art students, in Europe, they do things a little differently. Designed as a mentorship program for young artists recently out of university, the European Investment Bank’s Artist Development Program offers artists under the age of 35 a four-week residency in the heart of the European Union, under the tutelage of an established mentor to guide them in creating a work of public art. Developed in 2013, the flagship program is part of the EIB Institute as part of its mission to “promote and support social, cultural, and academic initiative within European stakeholders and the public at large.” 


 A Nuclear Research Facility

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland

Artists-in-Residence Alumni: Jan Peters, Rudy Deceliere and Vincent Hanni, Casandre Poirier-Simon, Yunchul Kim, Suzanne Treister

Sure, a cabin in the woods is nice, but have you ever considered moving your creative practice to a nuclear research facility? Home to the largest particle accelerator on earth, this residency immerses artists in the world of the Large Hadron Collider, getting the other-worldly opportunity to observe as scientists probe the most fundamental structures of our physical universe. This three month residency program allows artists to become active participants in discovering ways of understanding and making sense of our cosmos, pioneering new ways of bringing artists and scientists together around some of the world’s largest and most complex instruments and questions. According to their website’s mission statement, Arts at CERN seeks to “question how art and culture can form novel visions of a highly specialized environment.”


A Senior Center

su-casaVia SU-CASA artist-in-residence, Judy Hugentobler. Image courtesy of Judy Hugentobler. 

SU-CASA, a collaboration among the New York City Council, the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Department for the Aging, and each of the city’s 51 city council districts

Artists-in-Residence Alumni: Alastair Noble, Andrew Suseno, Ann deVere, David Anaya Maya, Jade Lam, Kathy Bruce

As part of New York City’s signature creative aging program, SU-CASA grants over 100 residencies to artists in all five boroughs, placing them in senior centers across the city in order to engage participating seniors in an art project or series of cultural programs. It also requires artist to develop public programming that will use culture as a way for senior citizens to interact with their surrounding communities. Each senior center offers its own unique spaces, resources, and opportunities, giving artists opportunities to engage with the participating seniors on a personal level.  

Pretty Much Any National Park in the United States

grand canyonImage courtesy of National Park Foundation.

Can you imagine an artists residency at the Grand Canyon? Well, it exists! With over 40 artist-in-residence programs throughout the National Park Service system, you can find your own little piece of creative utopia from sea to shining sea. This handy map shows you which parks are willing to host your creative compulsions.


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